EUGENE, Ore. – The game ended quickly.
The streak, meanwhile, lives on, Oregon now having beaten the Huskies nine times in a row after a 52-21 Pac-12 football victory over Washington here Saturday night in front of 58,792 at Autzen Stadium.
And this one might have been as frustrating as any for the Huskies, who knew they would need to play pretty close to flawlessly to have a chance against the No. 2-rated Ducks.
Washington, though, unraveled early in a hail of miscues with a fumbled punt and an interception return for a touchdown, allowing Oregon to break out to a 21-0 first-quarter lead.
A fumble in the second quarter by quarterback Keith Price stopped another UW drive and led to another Oregon touchdown and a 35-7 halftime deficit. And another fumble in the fourth quarter led to another short Oregon scoring drive.
In his halftime radio comments, UW coach Steve Sarkisian lamented the turnovers, saying, “You don’t get to drop punts against these guys and you don’t get to throw interceptions for touchdowns and you don’t get to fumble.”
No, you don’t. And when it was mercifully over, the Huskies had fallen to 3-2, each of the defeats blowouts on the road against top-10 teams (the other a 41-3 loss to Louisiana State in the second game of the season). UW is 1-1 in Pac-12 play and would need the unlikely prospect of two Oregon defeats to win the North Division.
Buoyed by a victory last week against Stanford, Washington entered the night ranked No. 23 by The Associated Press, the third time UW has been ranked during Sarkisian’s four years as coach.
Each time, UW has followed up the rating with a big defeat on the road, the previous two coming at Stanford in 2009 and 2011. And as those times, UW is likely to fall out of the polls this week.
While the turnovers were critical, Oregon also simply did what it always does on offense. It had 319 yards in the first half – almost an equal split of 159 rushing and 160 passing. That included three touchdown passes by redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota.
UW has not beaten Oregon since a 42-10 victory over the Ducks in 2003 in Seattle. Each of the nine defeats since then has come by 17 or more points.
The Huskies had hoped that a 17-13 victory over then-No. 8-rated Stanford last week showed it was beginning to close the gap on the elite teams in the Pac-12. But the gap looks as big as ever when it comes to the Ducks, who at the moment stand as the class of the Pac-12.
UW’s defense, so impressive in the triumph over Stanford, came out showing the same kind of fire, getting an interception on Oregon’s first drive and forcing a punt on the second.
But then the first-half turnover parade began as true freshman Marvin Hall let a punt go through his hands and Oregon recovered at the UW 20.
The Ducks needed just two plays to convert, with De’Anthony Thomas scoring on a 16-yard run up the middle.
After a dropped pass helped kill UW’s next drive, Oregon drove for another quick score to go up 14-0, this one on a 21-yard pass from Mariota to Keanon Lowe, a one-time UW commit.
It quickly went from bad to worse as Price, after one UW first down, was picked off on an out route by Oregon’s Avery Patterson, who returned it 43 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-0 with 2:07 left in the first quarter.
Washington, which had some success running the ball throughout, used a few good gains by Bishop Sankey (Gonzaga Prep) to move into Oregon territory, setting up a 1-yard score by Sankey with 13:58 to play in the first half.
But any thoughts of a Husky comeback evaporated almost immediately as the Ducks moved 76 yards in 10 plays to take a 28-7 lead, the score coming on a 10-yard pass from Mariota to Colt Lyerla.
The Huskies drove for a touchdown the second time they had the ball in the second half on a 6-yard run by Sankey, who went over the 100-yard mark rushing for the third consecutive week and finished with 104 yards.